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384 posts from October 2015

October 31, 2015

U.S. Senate candidate Pam Keith stands out with speech to Florida Democrats (but still faces long odds)



LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Pam Keith isn't well-known -- but at least some Florida Democrats are aware of her now after a rousing speech she gave tonight at the state party convention in Orlando.

Keith, an attorney from North Palm Beach, is competing against Democratic U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson, of Orlando, and Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, in the party primary for the 2016 U.S. Senate race.

She lacks the name recognition and fundraising sources that Murphy and Grayson have, but she managed to draw a more enthusiastic reaction from Florida Democrats Saturday night than either of her opponents.

The three candidates were among a line-up of speakers who addressed about 900 Democrats gathered for the final dinner of this year's state party convention, held at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Convention Center in Orlando.

Continue reading "U.S. Senate candidate Pam Keith stands out with speech to Florida Democrats (but still faces long odds)" »

Dade Medical College owner calls the cops on his former students


Coral Gables police have confirmed they were called to Ernesto Perez's Coral Gables home Friday night - in response to student protesters and TV stations that were camped out in front. 

Coral Gables police spokesperson Kelly Denham said that police were called to Perez's home between 10 and 11 p.m. Friday night. Denham said she did not know how many students had gathered to protest Perez, who announced earlier in the day that his for-profit Dade Medical College (and its sister school, the University of Southernmost Florida) would immediately close.

"We were called by the homeowner," Denham said. "For them not to go on his property."

The sudden closure of Perez's schools has angered many students, who invested tens of thousands of dollars in their education and are now left with college credits that won't transfer to community colleges and most other traditional schools. 

When they showed up at the Perez home, Denham said police found no issues or problems, and quickly left. Police did not bother the protesters or force them to leave, she said.

"Those protesters have their First Amendment rights," she said.

If there's a police report, she said it won't be available for a couple of days.

Prominent Democrats back Patrick Murphy over Alan Grayson



LAKE BUENA VISTA -- In a significant show of support, two prominent U.S. senators and a former U.S. representative are throwing their weight behind Patrick Murphy over Alan Grayson in the contentious Democratic primary in Florida's 2016 U.S. Senate race.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank say they believe Murphy has the better chance at uniting independent voters, who will likely decide next year's election.

They say Grayson, his main opponent, is too polarizing. They said Grayson -- if he were to beat Murphy in next year's Democratic primary -- could potentially cost the Democratic Party a significant chance at reclaiming the majority in the U.S. Senate come 2017, regardless of who the Republican candidate might be.

Klobuchar, McCaskill and Frank's endorsement announcement came Saturday as 2,000 Florida Democrats are gathered in Orlando this weekend for the state party convention.

"You gotta have somebody that will stand their ground but find common ground and reassure independent voters that they are not extreme," McCaskill said of Murphy. McCaskill knows from experience; she faces a similar dynamic in Missouri, a heavily Republican state.

Continue reading "Prominent Democrats back Patrick Murphy over Alan Grayson" »

Seminole Tribe keeps dealing black jack despite lawsuit, and why the state predicted this in 2012


A day after the state of Florida filed the expected lawsuit against the Seminole Tribe on Friday, the tribe continued to deal cards at its Hard Rock casinos in Tampa and Hollywood as it became clear that both sides had blown the Oct. 31 negotiations deadline.

The state filed a lawsuit in Tampa federal court alleging that the tribe was violating state and federal law by operating the blackjack, chemin de fer and baccarat at five of its seven casinos in Florida at the end of the 90-day grace period given when the 2010 compact with the state expired in July.

But the tribe contends that it is entitled to continue playing the games because the state's Division of Parimutuel Wagering has authorized look alike black jack to be played using slot machine software at slots casinos in South Florida. They say that's a direct violation of the Tribe's exclusive right to operate the games in Florida, under the 2010 compact agreement. 

Although the tribe contends that talks with the state to re-negotiate the table games provision are going well, and agreement with Florida legislators is getting close, it nonetheless filed a lawsuit on Monday in federal court making their claim, and including some boilerplate language about the state not negotiating in good faith.

Continue reading "Seminole Tribe keeps dealing black jack despite lawsuit, and why the state predicted this in 2012" »

Amy Klobuchar energizes Florida Democrats on Hillary Clinton's behalf



LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders are here in person at the Florida Democratic Party's state convention this weekend in Orlando. Both campaigns are well-represented, though, and Clinton's campaign arranged for a prominent Democrat to address the state party faithful on her behalf: Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

In an energetic speech, inflected with humor, Klobuchar sought to energize the delegates into mobilizing for victory in 2016. She emphasized the importance of Florida's role in the presidential race, but also as one of the critical states that could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate in 2017.

"I hope you know what state is at the epicenter of getting this done," she said. "We actually need five states, but we will not do this if we don't have Florida."

Continue reading "Amy Klobuchar energizes Florida Democrats on Hillary Clinton's behalf" »

A weekend of early voting in Miami, Miami Beach, Hialeah and Homestead

Early voting for Miami-Dade County municipal elections will end in most places on Sunday, Nov. 1. After that, voters will head to the polls on Tuesday. Here are times and locations for early voting in Miami, Miami Beach, Hialeah and Homestead.


Times: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m

Dates: Saturday and Sunday


▪ Allapattah Branch Library, 1799 NW 35 St.

▪ Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Dr., Miami (Entrance on northeast side of building — ADA Entrance at the front door)

▪ Lemon City Branch Library, 430 NE 61 St.

▪ Stephen P. Clark Center, (SOE Branch Office) Lobby, 111 NW First St.

▪ West Flagler Branch Library, 5050 W. Flagler St.

Miami Beach

Times: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Dates: Saturday and Sunday


▪ Miami Beach City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Dr.

▪ North Shore Branch Library, 7501 Collins Ave.


Times: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Dates: Saturday and Sunday


▪ John F. Kennedy Library, 190 W. 49th St.


Times: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Date: Saturday is the last day


▪ William F. “Bill” Dickinson Community Center, 1601 N. Krome Ave.

'Keep the faith,' Jeb Bush's Miami-Dade chairman urges team


The man charged with rallying Jeb Bush's loyal supporters in his hometown of Miami-Dade County wrote to his team Friday urging calm after a tumultuous week for the presidential campaign.

"Please keep the faith. This is just the beginning," Miami-Dade Chairman Jorge Arrizurieta emailed his group, under the subject line, "Full Speed Ahead!" "This election will not be solely decided by sound bites or debates but by actual substance and leadership."

The email, obtained by the Miami Herald, reflects the message Bush insiders have repeated over and over again in the aftermath of Bush's campaign restructuring last week and lackluster debate performance this week. They've preached patience and promised adjustments. Bush himself pledged to donors in a conference call Thursday that he intends to do better.

It didn't help Bush that news trickled out Friday that his chief operations officer, Christine Ciccone, left the campaign, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Ciccone parted ways with Jeb 2016 a couple of weeks ago, the Herald learned, and played no strategic role in the operation, though finance records show she made about $12,000 a month (which amounts to about $144,000 a year). Still, her departure was seen as another sign of upheaval inside Bush's West Miami-Dade headquarters.

Continue reading "'Keep the faith,' Jeb Bush's Miami-Dade chairman urges team" »

October 30, 2015

For-profit Dade Medical College implodes


Dade Medical College, the homegrown for-profit school that rose from humble origins to become an educational juggernaut, announced Friday it is closing its doors, effective at the end of the day.

Majority owner Ernesto Perez issued an afternoon memo informing employees and students.

Perez once wielded enormous political power both locally and in Tallahassee. But amid heightened federal scrutiny and mounting debts, he was unable to keep his college from going out of business.

All six Dade Medical campuses, stretching from Homestead to Jacksonville, are affected. Also closing are the two campuses of Dade Medical’s smaller affiliate school, the University of Southernmost Florida.

“Since the school’s opening in 1999, Dade Medical College contributed to the community through the training of thousands of Nursing and Allied Healthcare workers that graduated and are working in their field,” Perez wrote in his memo, adding “I, for one, will definitely miss working alongside you and witnessing all the positive outcomes we’ve built together.”

Some former Dade Medical students don’t consider their outcomes positive. They accuse the school of selling an overpriced, poor-quality education. And Dade Medical’s graduates have low passage rates for license exams in nursing and physical therapy assistance — the 2014 nursing passage rate at the Hollywood campus was 13 percent.

The bad news for Perez is likely to continue. As early as next week, he is expected to be arrested in connection with alleged campaign finance violations, multiple knowledgeable sources told the Herald. Perez also remains under criminal investigation for financial irregularities involving student loans.

Perez is a high school dropout and onetime rock musician who saw his colleges as an educational alternative for students who might not prosper at a traditional institution.

He made powerful friends along the way. Dade Medical has contributed more than $170,000 to state and federal candidates, through Perez’s companies, relatives and employees at various affiliated firms. Nearly a dozen South Florida politicians were either put on the college payroll or hired on a contractual basis.

More here.

NYT: Marco Rubio picks up backing from influential Republican billionaire Paul Singer

From the New York Times:

One of the wealthiest and most influential Republican donors in the country is throwing his support to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a decision that could swing millions of dollars in contributions behind Mr. Rubio at a critical point in the Republican nominating battle.

The decision by the donor, Paul Singer, a billionaire New York investor, is a signal victory for Mr. Rubio in his battle with his rival Jeb Bush for the affections of major Republican patrons and the party’s business wing.

It comes as a major blow to Mr. Bush, who is seeing his once vigorous campaign imperiled by doubts among supporters, and whose early dominance of the race was driven by his financial muscle. Mr. Bush and several other candidates, including Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, had competed fiercely for Mr. Singer’s blessing.

More here.

Judge dismisses teacher union's suit against Miami-Dade over property appeals


A judge has sided with Miami-Dade County in a legal fight with the county's teacher union over a tax-appeals board.

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Barbara Areces rules United Teachers of Dade did not have the legal standing to sue Mayor Carlos Gimenez over the county allegedly under-funding the Value Adjustment Board. County lawyers noted the VAB isn't under the mayor's authority, and Areces ruled only the board itself could sue over funding issues. Her decision dismissed the suit. 

While the legal topics were complex, the suit came as school-board member Raquel Regalado was tangling with Gimenez over VAB funding and urging board members to consider joining the suit. That was in late 2014, when Regalado was ramping up a mayoral campaign against Gimenez that she formally launched in March.

Gimenez's spokesman at County Hall, Michael Hernández, on Friday called the litigation "a frivolous and politically motivated" suit that wasted tax dollars. The teachers union had no comment, with an official saying the group had not yet seen the decision.